VANCOUVER, BC- A Vancouver-based company believes that it has developed a simple saliva test that can diagnose Alzheimer’s disease, as well as predict its future onset, allowing individuals to take preventive measures before the disease takes hold.
Aurin Biotech, which is developing agents for the treatment of Alzheimer disease and other chronic degenerative diseases, has published a scientific paper reporting on its test in the Journal of Alzheimers Disease. The test is based on measuring the concentration of amyloid beta protein 42 (Abeta42) secreted in saliva. Abeta42 is the material which accumulates in the brain of Alzheimer disease cases and causes neuroinflammation which kills brain neurons.
“The number of cases studied is small, but our results are so remarkable, we felt they should be made widely available,” explains Dr. Patrick McGeer, president and CEO of the company. He believes that if individuals know they are destined to develop Alzheimer disease, they can initiate preventive measures. These include taking over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen, drinking coffee, and sticking to a Mediterranean diet.
“Such a regimen can dramatically spare individual’s from Alzheimer disease if commenced well before the age of onset,” he says. “It is remarkable that while Abeta42 is made at a constant rate by every organ of the body, it is the brain, and only the brain, which decompensates late in life. This allows ABeta42 to precipitate with consequent development of Alzheimer disease.”
In the Aurin Biotech study, 25 controls, ranging in age from 15 to 92 years had Abeta 42 levels in their saliva averaging 23.34 picograms per ml (mean ± SEM: 23.34 ± 1.50). Six Alzheimer’s disease cases had values more than twice as high, ranging from 41.58 to 75.20 picograms per ml (mean ± SEM: 57.89 ± 6.53). A 51 year old pre-senilin 1 mutation case, who was cognitively normal but destined to develop Alzheimer disease had a value of 60.90, slightly higher than the average for Alzheimer disease cases. Two other cases, aged 52 and 60, who were also cognitively normal but were known from their family histories to be at high risk for Alzheimer’s disease, had values of 47.96 and 59.57 picograms per ml.
The study appears to show that nature tightly controls Abeta42 production in every organ of the body and keeps it at the same production rate throughout life. In normal individuals, this rate is almost exactly the same regardless of sex or age. However, for those destined to develop Alzheimer’s disease the rate varies, but is two to three times higher.
“We believe that a teaspoon of saliva can predict an individual’s chances of getting Alzheimer’s disease, and that once you know your chances you can take early preventive measures,” added Dr McGeer. “Knowing is the key, and that’s what this simple test is all about. It’s taken years of research to get to this point, but I really think we’re there.”
The disease, which affects an estimated 35 million people worldwide, is predicted to double in 20 years if progress is not made. In addition, the current cost of caring for Alzheimer’s patients is estimated at more than $500 billion per year.